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Clin Pediatr (Phila). 1999 Mar;38(3):145-52.

Children's and parents' visual perception of physicians.

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Shriners Hospital, Philadelphia, PA 19140, USA.


The purpose of this study is to evaluate the child's and parents' visual perception of physicians. To do this, 50 children and their parents were asked which physician they preferred, when shown eight pairs of photographs. Four characteristics were tested twice, white coat versus no white coat, smile versus stern face, cartoon posters versus no posters, and standing versus stooping. We found that both children and parents preferred the smiling physician and the physician with cartoon posters on the wall. Surprisingly 54% of children preferred the physician in the white coat, whereas only 35% of parents preferred the white coat. Sixty-eight percent of children also preferred the standing physician compared with only 41% of parents. There was little correlation between the parent's and child's answers. The results did not differ significantly with age, gender, or number of hospitalizations. In conclusion our study did not confirm the popular belief that children are afraid of physicians in white coats, although children did strongly prefer physicians who smiled and those with cartoon posters on the wall.

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